How to Protect Kids From the Flu
Get them vaccinated, get them vaccinated, get them vaccinated
It’s the time of year when parents feel hyper-anxious about their child catching the flu. School is in session, there’s lots of upcoming travel, and the virus is circulating.
While there’s no need to panic — and many fears are unfounded — it is true that the flu can be dangerous for young ones. Robert A. Finkelstein, MD, of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine of Weill Cornell Medicine, says he often sees young children in the emergency room during flu season. “We see many children with the flu, particularly between late October and late April.”
Children younger than five years old — and especially those younger than two— are at a higher risk for developing complications from the flu, like pneumonia. During the 2018–2019 flu season, 116 children died from the flu. About half of the deaths were among kids who were otherwise healthy. The majority of these deaths were in children who did not get the flu vaccine.
Here is the best way to protect kids from the flu and take care of them if they catch it.
Put the flu shot on your to-do list
There are good habits you can adopt during peak flu season, like making sure children are washing their hands often and trying to keep them away from people who are sick. But “the best way by far” to prevent complications from the flu is by getting the flu shot, for both you and your child, Finkelstein said. “There are different types of influenza viruses, and they can mutate or change, so it is difficult to make a perfect vaccine that protects against every strain. However, the most common strains are covered by the vaccine and even if you get the flu, it is often milder if you have been vaccinated.”
Children ages nine and older need only one dose of influenza vaccine. Children ages six months to eight years old may need two doses if it’s their first time receiving the flu vaccine or if they have not received two doses of vaccine prior to July 1, 2019 (which means they are unprotected for this year’s flu season).
For babies, the best protection begins in the womb. When mom has a flu shot during pregnancy, the antibodies pass…